Joseph Daniel Casolaro was an American freelance writer. He came to public attention in 1991. He was found dead in a bathtub in room 517 of the Sheraton Hotel in Martinsburg, West Virginia. His wrists slashed 10–12 times. A note was found, and the medical examiner ruled the death of Joseph Daniel Casolaro a suicide.
Death of Joseph Daniel Casolaro became controversial because his notes suggested he was in Martinsburg to meet a source about a story he called “the Octopus.” This centered on a sprawling collaboration involving an international cabal, and primarily featuring a number of stories familiar to journalists who worked in and near Washington, D.C. in the 1980s—the Inslaw case, about a software manufacturer whose owner accused the Justice Department of stealing its work product; the October Surprise theory that during the Iran hostage crisis, Iran deliberately held back American hostages to help Ronald Reagan win the 1980 presidential election, the collapse of theBank of Credit and Commerce International, and Iran-Contra.
Family of Joseph Daniel Casolaro argued that Joseph Daniel Casolaro had been murdered; that before Joseph Daniel Casolaro left for Martinsburg, hJoseph Daniel Casolaro had apparently told his brother that Joseph Daniel Casolaro had been frequently receiving harassing phone calls late at night; that some of them were threatening; and that if something were to happen to Joseph Daniel Casolaro while in Martinsburg, it would not be an accident. They also cited his well-known squeamishness and fear of blood tests, and stated they found it incomprehensible that if he were going to commit suicide, he would do so by cutting his wrists a dozen times A number of law-enforcement officials also argued that his death deserved further scrutiny, and his notes were passed by his family to ABC News and Time Magazine, both of which investigated the case, but no evidence of murder was ever found.
At about noon on August 10, 1991, housekeeping staff discovered Joseph Daniel Casolaro naked in the bathtub of Room 517. Wrists of Joseph Daniel Casolaro had been slashed deeply. There were three or four wounds on his right wrist and seven or eight on his left. Blood was splattered on the bathroom wall and floor; and according to Ridgeway and Vaughn, “the scene was so gruesome that one of the housekeepers fainted when she saw it.”
Under body of Joseph Daniel Casolaro, paramedics found an empty Milwaukee beer can, two white plastic liner-trash bags, and a single edge razor blade. There was a half-empty wine bottle nearby. Ridgeway and Vaughan write that nothing was placed in the bathtub drain to prevent debris from draining away, and none of the bathwater was saved. Other than the gruesome scene, the hotel room was clean and orderly. There was a legal pad and a pen present on the desk; a single page had been torn from the pad, and a message written on it: “To those who I love the most: Please forgive me for the worst possible thing I could have done. Most of all I’m sorry to my son. I know deep down inside that God will let me in.”
Based on the note, the absence of a struggle, no sign of a forced entry, and the presence of alcohol, police judged the case a straightforward suicide. After inspecting the scene, they found four more razor blades in their envelopes in a small package. Police interviews further revealed that no one had seen nor heard anything suspicious. The Martinsburg police contacted authorities in Fairfax, Virginia, who said they would notify family of Joseph Daniel Casolaro.
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